Northampton 58 Saracens 17: Lamont shows blond ambition for Saints

Four tries for Scotland wing pile pressure on Saracens
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The Independent Online

Four second-half tries by Sean Lamont, the Scotland wing, and eight in all to equal their highest points total in a League match, ushered Northampton one place up the Premiership table and further away from the clammy clutches of the perspiring relegation candidates. Saracens, by contrast, must feel the plughole's swirl sucking them down: this was their seventh League defeat in a row since they beat Newcastle last November.

Saracens got a 10-point start from a smart try on the shortside of a scrum by Dan Scarbrough and a conversion and penalty by Glen Jackson. But the tell-tale signs of a side lacking in confidence were writ large. When Sarries dithered and tossed away possession to cough up two tries to Northampton's flankers, Paul Tupai and Sam Harding, Saints never conceded the initiative.

The firm ground and late winter sun suited Northampton's half-backs, Carlos Spencer and Mark Robinson, to a tee; the Kiwi may be a flightless bird but the two New Zealanders moved gracefully and brilliantly across terra firma. If a pass through the legs was on, Robinson made it. Spencer preferred to go behind the back, just as effectively. Lamont and England's Ben Cohen - who are likely to be opponents at Murrayfield next week - combined in joyful reception of their inside backs' bounteous gifts.

Cohen scored Northampton's third try five minutes before half-time when he chased Bruce Reihana's grubber in behind Mark Bartholomeusz and got a kind bounce. Reihana converted that for a 24-10 lead and finished with 18 points from six conversions and two penalties.

The second-half picture was coloured by the big numbers of the bleached-blond Lamont. He secured Saints a bonus point when he caught a kick from Jackson on the full and raced home from inside his own half. Then he finished off a cross kick from Spencer. Steffon Armitage punctuated the one-way traffic but Saints went over again through Cohen's replacement. And Lamont had another long-range run-in when a promising Saracens counterattack petered out.

Saracens might fancy Mike Ruddock as director of rugby, having dispensed with Steve Diamond. They have Eddie Jones, the ex-Wallaby coach, arriving on 8 March to undertake a playing review. He had better bring a psychiatrist's couch. Half a dozen English youngsters on the field at the end must hope they will suffer from long-term memory loss after this sad performance.

"We're in more trouble than some people think we are and we're fighting for our lives now," said the Saracens head coach, Mike Ford, who has called a home-truths meeting with the whole squad at 10am this morning. Northampton's multi-national crew are on the up, unbeaten in six matches. Their owner, Keith Barwell, says he is eyeing the play-offs, not National League One.

Northampton: B Reihana (co-capt); S Lamont, J Clarke (R Kydd, 68), D Quinlan, B Cohen (J Rudd, 58); C Spencer, M Robinson (J Howard, 63); T Smith (C Budgen, 74), S Thompson (co-capt; D Hartley, 58), C Budgen (S Emms, 54), Damien Browne (Daniel Browne, 68), M Lord, P Tupai (D Fox, 53), Daniel Browne (D Gérard, 60), S Harding.

Saracens: M Bartholomeusz (T Castaiagnède, 50); D Scarbrough, B Johnston, A Powell, R Haughton; G Jackson, K Bracken (M Rauluni, 46); K Yates (N Lloyd, 37; Yates, 74), M Cairns (S Byrne, 50), C Visagie (B Broster, 46), S Raiwalui, K Chesney (capt; T Ryder, 54)), B Russell, B Skirving (D Seymour, 62), S Armitage.

Referee: R Maybank (London).

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